Friday, November 28, 2008

Chapter Leaders Who Are Targeted By Principals Should Have An Independent Investigation To Determine If Their Removal From The School Is Required





Being a Chapter Leader (CL) at a school is probably the toughest job a teacher can have and the good ones spend more time preforming their duties then the time allocated by the contract. It is very common for CLs to spend an hour or more beyond the school day taking care of business. This does not include disciplinary hearings, grievances, school committees and union meetings. The election of CLs is the last democratic process in the UFT, where all other union leaders (except the President) are appointed by the head of the union. The CLs are elected by the direct vote of the school staff. Therefore, the CL is usually the liaison between the Principal and the school staff. Unfortunately, many of the CLs become targets for the Principal, especially the more effective CLs.


Time and again I hear stories of CLs confronting the Principal with issues and being retaliated against by being harassed, investigated, and in some cases removed from the school. This creates a chilling effect not only at the school but in other schools where both the Principals and CLs know how the game is played. Is it any wonder that in some schools nobody wants the CL position? Further, especially in the elementary schools, the CL seems to be closer to the administration then the staff that they are supposed to represent. In some schools the CL position makes the teacher a target and every year a new CL must be voted on as the previous CL either quits, transfers, or is removed from the school. Being a CL is probably a thankless job except for those teachers who want to move into high union positions and the rest of the CLs, unless they kiss the Principal's butt, are the real heroes of the union. Inadequate compensation, long hours, and a possible target for insecure Principals.

To ensure that Principals no longer retaliate against the CL I propose the following investigative process. First, any CL being investigates will have a real independent investigation. No, not the unfair and biased investigations by OSI or SCI. This special investigator will be selected by both the union and the DOE and this person will hold an in-house interview with all parties involved. including the CL and make a truly independent judgement to determine if the CL gets a LIF or is removed from the school. This will stop Principal harassment and retaliation of CLs. Second, the same investigator can be used to determine if the administrator should be penalized for unprofessional actions against the CL, including a LIF and removal. Finally, the independent investigator can be used as a witness for and against the CL in disciplinary hearings, including 3020-a proceedings.
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While all teachers should have such protections, a good start would be with the CL and this protection should be included in any new contracts signed by the UFT.

P.S. I am not a Chapter Leader but I have seen and heard enough of these incidents that a real investigative process is necessary for them.

8 comments:

JUSTICE not "just us" said...

Chaz:

I am going to say this as bluntly as I can:

ANY CHAPTER LEADER WORTH ANYTHING SHOULD BE IN THE RUBBER ROOM!

What we need are CLs with gonads and woman qualify. The abuse of teachers for the past seven to eight years is prevasive and relentless under this regime.
In my blog I document not just what is being done to me but what has been done to others in my school during the tenure of the turd that was once principal.
I have been the lone voice in the wilderness. Without mentioning any names my CL and DR have been missing in action. The union is uncaring and ineffective(no matter what the teacher paper says)! Teachers in the RR despair because we have all been ignored and treated with pity by our union. Teachers at the schools don't attend union meetings because they know the CL are totally ineffective and as you state many are in bed with the principal.

We need to fill the rubber rooms with ballsy people who are willing to fight and sacrifice. If had the "Guantanamos" filled to the brim with CL principals would start to be fearful in using this tactic against all UFT members because of the bad publicity from the union and the 4th estate.

Once I am released from the "Guantanamo" that I am on sabbatical from and yes I do expect to be freed as I have done nothing wrong I am going to run for CL. We need to train our CLs in the tactics of Gandhi, Dr. King and yes Jesus Christ! What do we have to lose?

17 (really 15) more years said...

How about a CL that was sleeping with the principal?

Chaz said...

Justice:

Some are but many of the good ones usually can stop a Principal from removing them through political pressure.
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17:

I would tell my DR immediately and have the CL resign. Further. I would report the improper relationship to SCI and have them go after the Principal.

17 (really 15) more years said...

It happened long ago Chaz- I was too worried trying to keep my job with the 2 of the plotting against me- back then the union actually had some cajones and the DR provided invaluable help.

Anonymous said...

In my school the chapter leader is in bed with the principal. She doesn't do anything for the members. She has 5 extra free periods a week.

proofoflife said...

As a Chapter Leader I can tell you that I too have seen and heard of some power hungry CL's who are in bed with the adminstrators and do nothing to help the members. I have been told by my principal that I harass UFT members! Principals dont like it when you inform newbies of their rights. Speaking of which , I have found in my three years as CL that teachers are afraid of making any waves. They will go along with just about anything, especially when they don't have tenure. Guess what? I have also discovered that the UFT leaders don't like CL's that fight, and question UFT policy. For example, merit pay and teacher rating sheets based on student test scores. They pay much lip service, but if they know the principal they won't move grievances past step 1. I can't tell you how many times I have grieved the issue of the school budget. They don't want me to see it. The UFT assures me in the contract that I may have it, but I have yet to see it! Lastly, if there is no solidarity among the staff and spys get brownie points for ratting each other out it is a no win situation for a CL. As the adage says.. you can lead the horse to water, but you can't make him drink it! There have been thousands of times when members come to me crying, and when I say let's file a grievance they run with their tail between their legs like a puppy dog caught wetting the floor. Lastly, it is not much fun to be treated like a lepper. Teachers duck in hall ways and pretend they are not talking to me when admin. shows up on the scene. It is a disgrace. Yes, it is a thankless job. Many times people don't see what you are doing because I can't shout out peoples business. Imagine for a minute what it is like when the principal points to you ( me) and tells teachers to stay away from me and that I am a liability to the school. I am not a liability. I know my stuff because I take the time to read up on the issues and participate in the sometime invisible union life. Somewhere in me I still believe that people working together can make a difference. My boss ignores me as if I don't exist. When bringing visitors around the building she introduces her cronies, and walks by me without a glance. I used to let it bother me and in fact it still irks me. However, I have come to realize that she makes herself look like an ass. Tomorrow is another day. LIONS and TIGERS and BEARS OH MY! NICE POST CHAZ THANKS! You should run for CL!

Anonymous said...

Hang in there proof of life. Chapter leader is hard but we do the best we can.

James Eterno
UFT Chapter Leader
Jamaica High School

jd2718 said...

It's a sign of overall weakness that we'd even need to think about this. Our union should be jumping to the defense of our members, but especially CLs targeted for doing their jobs. CLs intentionally put themselves in harm's way, and must be protected. I'd prefer by their members, by their DRs, by their Borough Offices, and not by more words in the contract (which requires active chapters, districts, etc to enforce anyhow.)

Jonathan